Friday, 17 September 2010

Art is in the eye of the beholder

I think I've woken with a hangover (again) and am a fair bit grumpy. Fortunately The Boy's demand for £15 for a new rugby shirt didn't seem to unreasonable in my haze first thing.

Last night The Cat's Mum and I went to the British Art Fair at the Royal College of Arts. We went last year, but the difference this time was that we returned home together.

At the show, the stands were manned by the largest gathering of Ruperts and Mirandas to date. Slack jawed, floppy-haired trustafrians rah rah can tell it drives me to distraction. I'm sure they are perfectly nice people, but the air of elitism is impenetrable to me. The art ranged from well-established names like Lowry through to complete unknowns to me - a person who 'knows what they like'. In general my steely inexpert eye would say that most of it was uninspiring and inartistic. But that doesn't stop them charging a fortune for these works...was there anything there for less than £1000? I couldn't find it. And on one stand, the average price was well over a quarter of a million fine English pounds. I'm sure it was a prime target for any art thieves, but there didn't appear to be any security of note. I stand in awe at this. I can only assume that the market for expensive art is self-perpetuating with one Rupert selling to the next and so on...or perhaps I just wish I had the money to join in the merry-go-round?

Out on the street yesterday was a gathering of a different kind. The street which runs in front of the headquarters of the London Fire Brigade was full of firemen, and had been blocked off by riot police. I doubt there was a Rupert among them, but plenty of Robs, Petes and Andys. They had gathered to hear calls to fight impending cut backs. They were animated and passionate...although a few had sneaked off round the corner for a crafty pint...and I can't help but feel this is a sign of things to come. This may well be The Boys first winter of discontent.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

That was the week that was

So last week was all about Back to School. You couldn't turn a corner without seeing something about it.

At home, lost school books had to be found and uniforms that should have been hung up, but were screwed up in the back of the wardrobe, had to be washed and ironed. Faintly remembered routines have been revitalised - alarm calls at 6.45, shower, tea, breakfast and off in the car - remarkably, because it's still fresh, it's been an early start every day so far. It won't last. School timetables have to be learnt and after school activities organised and diarised. In the evening, the return of the rabble, homework to be done (one is far quicker at doing this than the's a cause of some friction), dinner cooked, eaten and the dishes piled into the dishwasher. It's the rhythm of life.

This week, it's all about the onset of autumn. Last night the central heating was switched on for the first time. Radiators had to be turned on...and my task will be to bleed the ones that are boiling at the base and freezing at the top. On the motorbike, I need to wear my winter gloves, and will change from wearing my Kevlar reinforced jeans to full motorcycle over trousers 'designed to stop muscle stripping'. The trees in the garden are just beginning to turn yellow, orange, brown and soon the leaves will fall and there'll be a pocket money task of sweeping them up. It's still light in the morning, but definitely darkening as I ride home...but I remain hopeful that there will be a last burst of sun this year. In the office we've started talking about Christmas arrangements...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A celebration...Tara's gallery

I won't pretend this is the greatest picture I've ever taken....but that doesn't stop it having a good story behind it....and this one worthy of any John leCarre novel.

The balloon indicates a celebration...I just wonder if you can guess what for? If you look closely at the signs behind Queen Anne, you will see they are written in Russian. And I can tell you that getting a helium balloon in St Petersburg in no easy task. Fortunately that labour of love didn't fall to me, rather to our American travelling companions....and , of course, they are rather good at that sort of thing. They asked at the hotel that we were staying at where they could get one. No Clintons in Russia you know. They were given a my head this was hurriedly scribbled on a piece of paper and surreptitiously passed to them by a rebellious receptionist in a dark corner of the hotel lobby. That may not have been the actual case. The Americans then made various phone calls to people who did not speak English. Perhaps they were waiting for the right password. Eventually they found the person who could supply them with this secret merchandise and were directed to a door in a back street of suburban St Petes. It wasn't a high street. In fact there were no shops at all. Just a big wooden door. They knocked. I'm sure it was a rhythmic three knocks followed by silence and then a further two brisk bangs. The door opened slowly, and they were ushered inside. Money was exchanged. The deal was done. The only challenge was to get it back without being seen, so they walked side by side with the balloon hidden behind them. They side stepped quickly into the hotel and made for the dining room where it was secured to a chair. The victim was, shortly afterwards, brought in to the room....and utterly charmed by it. Queen Anne's balloon accompanied us all for the remainder of our holiday, but sadly was unable to arrange an exit visa, or manage an escape over the border, so remained trapped in enemy territory.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Long Way Down

A few years ago, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman decided to head off round the world on their motorbikes, turning the adventure into an excellent TV programme. At the same sort of time, a film was released, The Motorcycle Diaries. Naturally I got confused and didn't realise that this was about Che Guevara's formative he developed from an aspiring doctor into an iconic revolutionary figure. The Motorcycle Diaries is superb, and I've lost count of the number of times we've watched it.

Together these two visual feasts have encouraged The Boy into an interest in motorcycles...something I regard as less than healthy, and have done my utmost to discourage him from. Fortunately, he appears to be heeding my plea that he doesn't learn until he's 35. I hope he sticks to that.

It has also very positively stimulated an interest in the outdoors, travel and adventure. All to the good.

The Long Way Round (I'll let you guess in which direction they encircled the globe) was followed by The Long Way Down. You guessed it, in this follow-up, they went North to South. It wasn't quite as captivating, as the format was just the same as the first series, and somewhat devalued by the presence of newbie biker McGregor's wife (if she could do it, so could anyone...and I thought this was supposed to be a boys' adventure)...but quite entertaining none the less.

For Charlie Boorman, it was this start of a new an autograph signer and adventurer....which was fortunate as his acting career was not quite as stellar as his travelling companion's. The Boy was lucky enough to meet him at The Motorcycle Show and get the autograph he so wanted.

McGregor has gone from strength to strength...although personally I've never been a fan. Not sure why, his films just don't appeal.

For both Long Way Round and Long Way Down, the boys raised money for UNICEF, visiting some of the charity's facilities on their journeys - and that interest clearly still remains. So I'm very happy to have been asked to post the following video to help raise money for Pakistan's children whose lives have been devastated by the floods.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Battle of the iPods

What I meant to say, as we reached the three quarter point of Avatar (3D) that we had eventually got round to seeing this weekend, to the man sitting behind us in the swanky West End cinema was "Would you mind awfully not repeatedly knocking the back of my chair please as its quite distracting."

What I actually said was, "Can you stop kicking the back of my......



fucking seat"

Before realising it was his friend sitting next to him that was doing it. So I quickly turned forty five degrees and added,

"Yes's you...I can see your foot"

I'm so glad I didn't go into the diplomatic corps...

It was during the big battle near the end of the film, so the adrenaline was pumping...its an excuse of sorts...

Does anyone know why Apple insists on updating iTunes so frequently that I regularly haven't installed a new version before an even newer version needs to be downloaded. I spend more time downloading than listening, which seems somewhat perverse.

Having not been married for a decade, I'd forgotten about the little tiffs and squabbles that can populate family life.

This weekend we toddled off to see some friends on the other side of the M25. A journey long enough to require music. Of course radio is not good enough, so three of us decided to bring our iPods. In an act of uncommon charity on my part, I suggested we listened to songs from The Cat's collection. The Cat is, of course, a teenage girl. Which was fine until The Cat's Mum insisted on taking control, and further still insisted on playing the sort of music that no self-respecting teenage boy, and his father, could tolerate. Britney Spears, Avril Lavine and Bryn Terfel among them. After much lively discussion, I tried awarding points out of 10 to each played song as a gentle hint. The Cat's Mum was hitting a lowly 3 before I resorted to switching to the radio, switching to the CD, and disconnecting the iPod. It all seemed quite fun as we tried to avoid the enormous queue on the M25 which was sending stress levels dangerous near the 'heart attack' point.

On the return journey, The Boy was given the chance to plug in his iPod...and all seemed to be going well, as The Cat was given the chance to play a couple of tracks. but then it all went horribly wrong. it may have been The Verve. It may have been Radiohead, but suddenly The Boy was on a roll, and refused to allow anyone near the music. We tried to mediate, we tried to reason, we tried the application of commonsense. We even tried humour. But to no avail. The Boy disconnected the iPod from the car stereo and put on his headphones. With jaws dropped, the rest of us were left in momentary musical absence. The CD player was then switched on, and we sat in silence apart from the thumping out of Bachman Turner Overdrive...